Monday, August 29, 2011

#12: Consider your options

Everyone should read this article, especially if you are a musician and/or music student.

Are you feeling "stuck"?  You just got your degree in performance/composition/whatever... and now what do you do?

It's so important to consider your options.  If you love school and want more of it - go to school!  But if you're going to school just to bide your time or out of a feeling of obligation, you may be missing out on something.  Something that will shape your future career, something that will help you find your "niche."  School can be a way to do this, but it's not the only way.  Also, school can be very expensive - the decision to go back to school should not be taken lightly.  It should be a deliberate decision.

But what if I make a bad choice?  Go with your gut - if something really doesn't appeal to you, don't do it just for the sake of doing it.  If something truly intrigues you, go for it.  You'll have to be very honest with yourself for this part.  It seems like many music students are afraid of having wasted "all that time practicing."  I disagree with this notion.  Everything you do shapes you as a person and contributes to the things you do.  Dedication and discipline to anything will help you be dedicated and disciplined in your career, no matter what it is.

What I got out of this article is this: Don't limit yourself by limiting your options.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#11: Bookmark this website!

UGA Tuba-Euphonium Studio: Audio Clips

This is an amazing resource for players and teachers alike... Mr. Zerkel has recorded many etudes and solos and posted them here.  I'm very excited to have this as a tool!

Monday, August 22, 2011

#10: Found this recording...

Originally, I deleted this video from YouTube because this recording isn't "perfect."  I listened again and decided what heck, share it with everyone.... who's perfect anyways?  Plus, someone might benefit from getting to hear the whole thing with piano (since that's what most people get to perform with)... you know, just to put the 2 parts together in their head before rehearsing with an accompanist.

I recorded this for 2 reasons: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra audition and USF's Concerto Competition.  I didn't get invited to MSO but I won the concerto competition.  What a ride that was.  It felt funny showing up to the rehearsals and plopping down in front of the orchestra ("What am I doing up here?).  Also, it's not every day that the tuba player gets his/her own dressing room at the concert, ha ha!

 I decided to stop being so hard on myself today.  I realized that while yes, it's not perfect, it was also a big accomplishment for me to record this.  I had never recorded an entire concerto before, with or without accompaniment, and I had never advanced in any competitions.  It's also interesting to listen now and think of the things I like as well as the things that I would do differently now.

I'm not trying to discredit this recording, I do like it!  But I'm also human - and my biggest critic.  So please don't take anything I've said the wrong way. :)

Anyways, enough chit-chat, here it is:

Best wishes to all in this new school year!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

#9: Gigs and subs

Hello all,

I just had to vent about something on here (it's my blog, not sure why I prefaced with that statement, haha).

This year, I have more conflicts between the 3 main groups I play with (TSO, GCO and GBQ) than ever before.  I understand why - I'm almost 100% sure that I'm the only person in TSO that plays with GCO too.  Additionally, TSO has very few "commuter" musicians like myself.  GCO, obviously, is pretty good about not scheduling services during UF ceremonies, which is great because GBQ plays all UF functions needing music (additionally we play for SFC and St. Leo-Gainesville).  So graduation season is great to me!  However, since I'm one of the only commuters to TSO, and no one else there plays in GCO or GBQ, TSO does not crosscheck its schedule with Gainesville-based ensembles or schools.  GCO crosschecks its schedule with OSO (Ocala), CSO (Charlotte) and perhaps one or 2 more regional orchestras because multiple GCO members play in those ensembles.  But GCO doesn't crosscheck with TSO because I'm the only member that would have a conflict.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I understand, because why should an entire group have to make/change its plans around one person?  On the other hand, I'm the only tubist, which means I have to use a sub if I can't come - and there's no section for the tuba to "hide" under.  I understand that using subs is a normal thing; however, I can't help feeling like I'm not giving the commitment level that I want to the groups if I have to use a sub more than once a season.  I play with regional orchestras, so I don't even usually play on every concert.  I might play 3 concerts a year with one orchestra a 6 with another.  It all depends on repertoire of course.

I think the most frustrating thing about this is all of the weeks where I'm not playing in any orchestra, and there are no college graduations and/or church gigs.  How I wish we could just move conflicting concerts to those weeks!  Between pay, travel, level of rep and available subs - it's a tough choice to make sometimes, especially if you do not personally know your subs and their abilities.

I have made my employers aware of my multiple commitments (both this year and in the past).  I just hope everything goes well this year.  Again, I just wish I could give 100% to all of the groups I play in, and it just kills me not to be able to do so.  I do not like to give less than 100%.  Of course, I also don't like giving up pay that I could have if there were no conflicts.  But this is pretty much out of my control at this point - I guess I just have to make decisions now!

I should add that I'm incredibly grateful to have so many playing opportunities as a tubist.  Florida has treated me well so far and I'm thankful to work with the people I do to get the gigs I get.  It's also rewarding to see a lot of my hard work over the years paying off.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#8: Aaaaaand we're back! (Listen)

Hello internet friends!  Sorry for the long time without an update (I know, you were devasted every day you didn't see me update, haha).  I've been moving/setting up work/working.  I've gotten to work a couple of band camps in town and I must say I've been very impressed.  People seem to like band in these parts!

First, a little education on the Eb contrabass sarrusophone:

Wasn't that lovely?! :) I liked the choice of repertoire - hahaha!

Anyways, I'd like to share some experiences I've had in the past couple of weeks, practicing and teaching.

We all know listening is crucial.  But what are we listening for?  What we want to come out of the horn, right?  Then, why do we often make things more complicated than that?  There's no reason to.  Recently, I've been working a lot on my intonation in my lower register.  I honestly think the reason I've struggled with it for so long it just because I wasn't being picky enough with my mental image of what I wanted to come of out the horn.  I've caught myself micromanaging my embouchure, jaw placement, air, etc.  All of these things are important to learn how to do properly, but alone, it's not enough.
Recently, I was doing my normal long tones, and I was fixing to play C2 to Ab1, and I had that pitch ready to go in my head.  But I must have had a mental lapse, since I pressed down my 3rd valve (fingering for A natural for those that aren't tubists or fluent in CC fingerings), and what came out?  An Ab (albeit a sharp one) registered on my tuner.  Another example, I had a student yesterday doing some long tones.  He has great pitch, and I told him to play a G, but he also had a mental lapse and forgot to put any valves down for the fingering.  And wouldn't you know it, a G still came out of his tuba.... and he's in 7th grade.  My theory is that, if you have a basic grasp of the operation of the tuba, working on your mental depiction of pitch will be more efficient than just learning to manipulate your instrument or embouchure.  Of course, we must "tweak" our horns to fit our tendencies, but we cannot rely on this alone.  We also cannot rely on perfect embouchure placement.  These things should be an aide to a good ear.

In addition to pitch, I must constantly remember to listen for what characteristic sound I want to come out of the horn.  For those of us that are out of college and play with a regional/part-time orchestra, between seasons, our memory of how you fit into an ensemble can get fuzzy (maybe I'm in the minority for this!).  My goal right now is to remember how I would play in an ensemble.  I almost never feel tension or feel the need to play incredibly loud in an ensemble.  Plus, I'm more relaxed because I'm making music with others, and that's what I love to do.  There are occasions in TSO where I really need to crank it up, but that's about it, and that kind of volume can only come with real relaxation anyways.  I have heard that a common complaint of audition panels is that most tubists try to play too loud.  I think the keyword here is "try" - this implies too much effort or perhaps even strain, so sound and musicality are effected.  You (and I) may have a "bigger" effect if you take it down a notch.  And, in the process of doing that and learning to relax more, we can crank it up with a good sound!

I have to admit that part of my mental dilemma is years of playful teasing from section colleagues about how I will never be able to play loud enough.  I know that loads of low brass musicians communicate through playful teasing and friendly competition, but I'm trying to get myself out of this mindset (though I love that a low brass section can just laugh at the other's mistakes without judging - we all know that sometimes, "it just happens!").  My comfortable forte is enough for most forte passages.  I think another personal element to this was that I was taught to play loud, yet comfortably, during most of my warm-up/fundamentals routine.  I often forget that my default sound is usually somewhere around a forte.

If anyone has comments/tips/help/anecdotes, please comment!

Best wishes to all musicians and teachers during the fall "rush." :)